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Helping a grieving child

Squirrel's picture

I have been with my partner for nearly 5 years now. However 9 months into the relationship his wife (not yet divorced!) developed cancer, and although it retreated a little, it soon came back and last week she passed away Sad

However there is a little boy, 6 years old, left behind too. I have never met him for it would have been much too insensitive. But obviously it makes this situation more difficult.

How should we go about introducing me and my own child? Obviously it will be a slow process...but how long should we leave it before introductions on a "friend" level? Any advice on introductions and the gradual process of moving in?

I am adopted myself so understand the need for careful planning and sensitivity when effectively starting a new family life.

Also is there any literature on step-parenting grieving/bereaved children?

Oh and just to add I am concentrating this post on my partner's child, for my own son, 5, has known my partner all his life and am not worried about how well he will take to my partner, though I do have concerns on the two boys.

Thank you in advance for any help or advice.

Anon2009's picture

My advice is as follows:

a) Don't meet this kid any time soon, at least for a year. He needs space to grieve. Heck, it might be a few years before it'd be a good time to meet this little boy.

b) Your BF needs to get his son grief counseling. His son's pediatrician will have the phone numbers of therapists who are experienced in helping grieving children. He needs to be in close consultation with the therapist about how to help his son. He can ask the therapist when it would be alright to introduce you. Be forewarned, though, that it will probably be a long while before you get to meet this boy.

Your BF's main focus right now needs to be on his son. Right now, the best thing for you to do would be to support and encourage his need to focus on his son and get him into grief counseling aimed at helping children.

Squirrel's picture

Thank you. Yes he and his son are receiving counselling through Macmillan (I think it is that one).

My partner is worried that the child will need a sense of normality in his life. Not a new mum, but a female role model etc.

christag's picture

My skids were older when their mom died, but I completely agree that the best thing you can do is have nothing to do with him. Let your boyfriend and his son settle in and adjust to this before introducing yourself to the situation. My skids have an aunt that they basically consider their mom and were very close to their grandma. Those are the types of female role models your boyfriend's son is likely to turn to.

It was a HUGE mistake for my DH to bring me into the picture only months after his wife died. He thought they would want a mom-like person in their lives, especially his teenage daughter. His kids now hate me and call me and my kid's their dad's replacement family.

There's this myth that it's so much easier to a stepmom due to death rather than only divorce. But it's really not. His mom is now a mythic saint who you will never be able to replace or compare to.

oneoffour's picture

Does the boy know you exist? Or are you a complete stranger to him?
I agree, allow him to grieve. This can take at least a couple of years.
The worrying thing is your BF thinks you need to step in and be a positive female role model. As christag mentioned, he can use a sister or his mother to be the role model. Then there is no risk of the other female 'replacing' his late mother.
I wonder how he can go for so long without knowing about you if you have been with his father since the boy was one? Was his fahter still living at home with him?
Because if this is the case it will make the future a long protracted process.

Squirrel's picture

Sorry the thread was too upsetting so have been away for a while.

I just want to say that I have no desire to replace his mother. I am adopted from ritualitic abusive parents, aged four, and have always ascertained that my adoptive parents are my real parents for it was always my own choice.

However my brother for instance was adopted from a mother who loved him dearly and he remembers her, or at least did. He came to live with us but his mum died a few years later, and I saw how he grieved. And he is very close to our mum! So I have intention of replacing her, just filling some of the roles.

The little boy is aware of another woman in his daddy's life but unsurprisingly it was not talked about.

Thank you for all your replies. I think this is going to happen a lot quicker than you all are advising but my partner has been praised for how well he has so far prepared his son for what was inevitably going to happen and so his son, although sad, is much more able to get on with life than most. So I have come to realise I have to take the advise of my partner on this, for he knows his son best, and he will not do anything detrimental to his son.